The Wheel

By Zinnie Harris

2020

As my capstone for my theatre major, I worked all year on this project with my classmates with an end goal of producing a play in the spring semester. Due to the Corona-virus, we were unable to produce the show in the spring of 2020 though the work we did throughout the year still has great value. 

Along with performing in the show I also took on the production role of head of PR and outreach. To learn more about what I did in this role please watch the video below. 

My acting role

I was cast as the lead role, Beatriz. Beatriz was a dream role for me. She is a strong woman character who is incredibly decisive, brave, and direct. As I graduate college and move forward into the real world, I have big goals to pursue acting for film and television. The actresses in this field that I look up to are ones that can play any role and play them well. Having the opportunity to play a role that was quite different from the roles I am usually cast in was incredible for me. I knew that I would learn a lot about a different kind of acting as well as a lot about myself as an actor.

One approach that I took when working on creating a well-rounded and honest portrayal of Beatriz was to focus on the way that she spoke. Working with Becky Free in our various vocal workshops, I began to discover how the rising and falling of vocal intonation and pitch can produce different effects. Beatriz does not second-guess herself, she commands a room and lays down the law even if she has no idea what she’s talking about. It became clear to me that she should almost always speak with a falling intonation in her voice and be very direct in her speech in order to express these important characteristics. This was a challenge for me. As a woman in this society, I find I have been conditioned to constantly speak with a rising intonation as if everything I am saying is a question. I had to be really conscious of changing this habit. After working on this beginning scene, I worked hard to maintain that vocal quality throughout the show. Once I found it I believe I was able to embody those characteristics in her physicality as well. Maintaining a straight posture with two feet firmly planted whenever possible helped illustrate how powerful and strong Beatriz is. 

I took this role and all the responsibilities that came with it very seriously. Being called for every single rehearsal was definitely a challenge. It was physically exhausting and it was also mentally and emotionally exhausting. Many of the scenes, especially towards the end of the show, were very emotionally intense for my character. It was crucial that I stay really focused and in character the entire time in order to work towards portraying a true and honest character.  If I was able to do the entire show without stopping, I would be able to show the arc of Beatriz’s character and contextualize how exhausted and defeated she feels by the end of her journey. In rehearsal I was forced to tap into these emotions without having “lived” them as the character yet. What it came down to was pushing myself to lean into the physicality and feel that exhaustion in my body and then the rest followed easily. I found myself taking more time with my lines and though I maintained the direct vocal quality of Beatriz, there came a new-found softness and defeat in her. I was then able to “snap” into these emotions more easily in our start and stop rehearsals by falling back into the specific physicality I developed. 

I am heartbroken at the idea that I will probably not be able to perform this role but I do feel like I learned a lot about acting and creating theatre during this process. All of the table work and discussions we had made me a better thinker and enabled me to dive deep into my character.